While leaving the parking lot at the Quirino Grandstand after attending the clergy Christmas party in Ozeano, a fusion restaurant located in the LUNETA OCEAN PARK MANILA, I suddenly remembered a lot of memories spent in the park.
In my younger days, during the 60's and 70's, the Luneta Park is the most popular place of recreation and relaxation. Then, were mostly small department stores and restaurants and no malls. Now, malls had become the primary place of destination! Then, almost every Sunday and holidays, going to the Luneta Park (LP) had become a ritual especially for the poor who can not afford to go to other more distant and more expensive places. In the LP, you can be very satisfied by merely walking through it, squat or sit in a cool place when you get tired, buy ice cream or any "fastfood" being sold by ambulant vendors, and if you are there at the right time, watch the sun set at the historic Manila Bay.
The LP is a family's haven. It caters to everyone of every age and and status. The children could learn about Philippine geography by spending time on the Philippine map, the first feature you will see if you are coming from Taft Avenue. The whole LP goes up to the Manila Bay. Teens could enjoy the beautiful greens placed all over the LP. Lovers could spend more time together, even intimately, in the cozy Japanese Garden. Everyone could enjoy the rest the LP can offer; Rizal monument, different gardens, sunset, the big clock, and the open grounds.
It used to be a source of fresh air for everyone. When I was about seven years old, my lungs were sick because I let my perspiration dry on my body (children, you know!). My grandmother would religiously bring me almost every morning at the LP for me to breathe in fresh sea air. The doctor told my lola that it will be very good for me. I look forward to that everyday trip to the LP for another reason; the opportunity to buy and eat boiled corn which was available always.
When I grew up to be a teenager, our "barkada" in Mandaluyong would visit the LP whenever there is an occasion; birthdays, end of school, Holy Week, and during the Christmas Season. One that we never missed was the to spend our time there after celebrating New Year's eve with our families. We would gather outside our home and bring anything from what was left of the media noche. We also brought guitars, cameras, blankets, books, or anything that will help us while away the wee hours of the morning until dawn. When all were set, we will ride to the LP. At that time, the LP were full of people. It was almost impossible to find a small place where we can spread our blanket and claim that piece of land for our group. But we were always lucky to squeeze in ourselves even if it would entail begging other groups to spare us some space no matter how small. The mood was very joyful. Almost everyone was willing to share their food, music, and even friendship. We came to meet a lot of friends during our yearly new visit to the LP.
Now, I wonder how the LP looks like? I had not made that walk from Taft Avenue to the Manila Bay. I wonder how is the LP during the early new year morning? Are still people going there at that time? I guess it is time to visit the LP again and find out for myself!